About Me

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Typical Piscean, dreamer, story teller in the tradition of my country, I love to write. I'm not sure that I'm any good at it, but getting the words down has its reward.

09 September 2014

Sun setting on Galway trip...

Last week we were going on the much vaunted trip to Galway.  That trip that we had pared down to the 11.25a.m., train, arriving at 13.44p.m., bus to Salthill, lunch at the Galleon restaurant, return to train for departure at 17.20.  The sun shone, and the garden called and we postponed to yesterday.  I am beginning to think there is something UP THERE deciding that we are not likely to get there this year.

I am not, however, discouraged.  On Saturday morning we were having a family breakfast and discussing the coming week ahead.  Himself was fretting that he had a list as long as his arm of things to do yet before we close the garden down for the winter.  When I read out my diary list of meetings regarding our village history exhibition, coffee dates with friends back from holidays and other summer pursuits, a re-decoration programme for the garden room [smallest room in the house needs a major rethink], and other obligations, Frances announced that we would be better leaving Galway until next year.  It is now on the list for the first week in October, according to Himself "We will get there this year...heavy emphasis on the THIS!".  I believe him.

When we built our new extension in 2010, by putting one wall at an angle, what should have been a narrow corridor suddenly became an area in which we could sit and enjoy the view.  It became a "room" by accident; Peter, our builder, was the one who named it The Garden Room.  I put a long mirror on the wall, one of those box presses from Lidl as a temporary measure, and some Chinese slate effect vinyl on the floor.  We painted the walls white as an undercoat for an, as yet to be chosen, colour and promptly forgot about it while we got on with the rest of the decorating.  

It has always been at the back of my mind to do something with it; the white, while fresh and "garden room" looking, being North facing is cold in winter, and I don't like the white box.  My beady eye has been assessing this area for the past few weeks and I have now decided that it shall be a light cream colour and I am on the look out for a nice chest to place under the mirror.  I already have a mahogany garden chair in it.  On cool days and cold winter afternoons, I can cosy up to the radiator enjoying a cup of tea and the view.  I made some cushion covers [sewn by hand] out of Mum's old curtains and the apricot and taupe flower on a creamy base colour picks up the floor vinyl and and warm's it up somewhat.  The same pale cream will greatly improve the walls.  Whenever visitors come, they always head for the garden room sighing that they could sit there forever.  Try holding a history group meeting in a room that has four doors off it and holds three people...and that's pushing your luck!

I hate sewing.  Sewing with machines that is.  We have an old sewing machine that was my Grandmothers, and which Mum had converted from manual to electric.  I was terrified of it as a child.  When you eventually got it going, it confused itself with a Gattling gun and shot out broken needles at a rate of speed that makes the modern machine gun look like slow motion.  The nuns at school were very keen that we young ladies would be good seamstresses.  I can hem for Ireland and my carrier bags made from leftover curtain material are popular among my friends.  Anything I sew by hand will never come undone.  This is wonderful until you need to unpick a line of stitching for some reason.

The history group has fallen into  groups, as was inevitable.  There are those of us whose families date back to Adam and Eve, those who probably arrived with the Postman, and those who landed five minutes ago.  The middle group don't know which side they fly with.  On the one hand they are sometimes scathing about the A&E group chats on family memories [nearly all inter-related] and on the other they're not too enthralled with the 5 Minuters.  The 5 Minuter's are determined to organise us all and tell us the history of our families and the village.  Wonderful.  They do more "popping in just for a minute" than Mapp did to Lucia when Lucia first rented Mallards*.  

One popped in the other day to tell me what to write about my family history for the exhibition.  Feeling distinctly Lucia-like I told her it was already written, done and dusted. She kindly told me she would "pop in later" to help me edit it and arrange it properly.  I am seriously considering seccession from the rest of the nation and declaring our garden the Independent Republic of Our Family.

The effect of all this "popping" is that the A&E group have, collectively, decided to present a single A4 sheet with a relevant photograph on their respective families for "blowing up" so they can be put on the "Exhibition Board".  The meeting tonight bids fair to  be interesting.  All this popping and blowing has left me in sore need of a cup of tea.

*Mapp & Lucia; E. F. Benson

04 September 2014

September garden

The garden looks wonderful this September.  The rowan trees are full of berries, the packet of wildflowers [free with a tub of butter last spring] has delivered with two kinds of red poppies, cornflowers, pink flowers [as yet unnamed] which mix joyously with the invasive but 
undeniably pretty convolvulus.

I love the garden in September on days like this; the sky and the sea meeting seemlessly, bee's droning as they go about their business and butterflies dancing on the trees.

The sight of a specklewood butterfly sunbathing on the leaves of the sumach tree has always enthralled me; they were a favourite of Mum's, she always associated them with balmy autumn days.  

I love the garden, and I love this garden.  It was a granite quarry from the 1700's tgo 1866 [approx.] and when the quarrymen moved out, my great-grandfather and great-great grandmother moved, literally, up the cliff and into the cottages with a 99 year lease and a measure of security for the  twelve children they were eventually to go on to have.  Eight of them survived; the youngest, my Grandfather, with his father, founded the dairy farm that was the family business for the better part of a century.  The lease was eventually bought out and, today, my branch of the family lives where the dairy farm once was.

Over the years, since it ceased being a dairy farm in 1958, Mum created a garden at the side of the house, wherein she grew fruit and veg and flowers.  We still try to maintain the flowers in her garden

and today Himself is giving it a thorough tidy.  We are in Galway today...not...but that's another story and the betting is on for Monday being Galway day.  In the meantime, the garden is not suffering from our absence.  He's tidying the garden, and I'm doing the indoor chores.  

The surplus jam and chutney she sold at the local shop in the village, I can still see her hovering over her "jam-pan" with a red gingham apron tied around her waist; "Country Living" or "Period Living" personified.  Her dahlia's won prizes at the various horticultural shows and her white soda bread frequently walked away with the challenge cup at the nearest annual agricultural show.

In my childhood, "Bleak House" would have been a better name for here, with arctic winds sweeping down from the north and eastern howlers in from Wales, and only gorse and cotoneaster for shelter.  She managed to keep two flower beds surviving under the front windows of the house, ablaze with peacock tulips, marigolds, pansies and daffs in spring.  Lupins, penstimon and nasturtiums in summer.  Those were the days when she had more time for gardening, limited by areas of bare granite.

Mum and Dad planted a blue cedar in 1967 and in my mind's eye I can still see them seeking enough soil to dig a hole to plant the sapling.  She in a yellow sleeveless linen dress and he in khaki trousers and soft cotton shirt.  After Dad died on 22 March 1970, the night Ireland won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time, Mum went back to teaching full time and the garden took second place to her work and her various groups, such as the ICA  which is the Irish version of the Women's Institute, and her grand daughters.  Various pine trees had seeded themselves, the ubiquitous gorse had crept even closer to the house and brambles ran riot.  For Frances and Edel, "Gran's" was a wonderful jungle in their childhood, just as in mine when it was the "high mesa's" where in we played  "Cowboy's and Indian's" among the granite rocks.  My pal Alex and I were always the "Indians".

On 22 March, 2008, Mum quietly went to Dad, reunited after 38 years and Himself and I took over.  Bit by bit Himself cut, sawed, chopped and fought his way through the land that time forgot.


Before and after

Blackberries grow where we want them to now

Instead of briars

Cyclamen on the bank 

Successive gorse fires had made for healthy fertile soil where once there was bare granite.  We had firewood out of it for the range for five years.  All over the years the Blue Cedar, now well over 60' high, kept watch over the house.

Himself has the huge lawn he always wanted, I have my woodland areas where frttilaria's dance in spring breezes, shaded by the blue cedar, alive with birdsong from the other trees.  Fat wood-pigeon graze the lawns where once dairy cattle waited entrance to the milking parlour, magpie's thieve food buried by our handsome fox.  At the foot of a small cliff blackberries grow and Himself and I have enjoyed blackberry and ice cream for the past few weeks.  On top of the cliff, ling and heather have returned and the gorse is firmly controlled acting as a boundary barrier.

There are rifts of wild grass and rose-bay willow herb, orange lillies grow along the small dry stone walls Himself built, a reminder of my Kerry ancestry.  The blue cedar still hovers over the house.  This year, because of the winter storms, we have halved it's height and cut dead limbs off, lightened the length of the healthy limbs.  She is, once again, the supreme queen of our garden.

Last night at dusk, as I pulled the curtains across the study window, I swear I saw Mum and Dad standing beneath the blue cedar smiling lovingly at me.

Mum's virginia creeper still going strong